Hero targets podiums after top 10 finish in Merzouga
Hero MotoSports team has set its sights on scoring podium finishes after a successful maiden outing in the Merzouga Rally.
Last month, Hero announced its entry into cross-country rallying, having tied up with established German squad Speedbrain.
The first test of their partnership came in the sand dunes of Morocco, where factory riders Joaquim Rodrigues and CS Santosh finished ninth and 16th respectively.
Encouraged by the performance, team boss Wolfgang Fischer says Hero can eye podiums in the future, while warning that results won’t come overnight.
“Rally Sport is an endurance sport, and so it is with the results - you need some time to have the complete package ready to be on the podium,’’ Fischer told Motorsport.com in an exclusive interview.
“Focused work and improving in each segment wherever we can is the target, if we do it right, the results will follow.”
Acknowledging the challenge that lies ahead, Hero has conceived a rapid development plan to catch up with other manufacturers.
To achieve the desired result, Fischer has identified some key areas his squad will work on in the run up to 2017 Dakar.
“We are working on rideability and suspensions, to adapt to the riders and make them feel maximum comfortable and safe,’’ he explained.
Santosh has potential
Having impressed in his first two outings in Dakar, Santosh was a natural choice for Hero and Fischer sees plenty of potential in the Indian rider, having worked with him in Merzouga.
“Santosh is very good. He is very professional and very friendly person, with good riding skills and the potential for more. And a good team player, too,’’ he said when asked about Santosh’s first impression.
Rookie Rodrigues partnered the Indian in the team's maiden cross-country outing which Fischer believes was fruitful.
"Everything went to plan [in Merzouga]," he said. "The riders used the very difficult navigation to learn doing it, by their own.
"And on the technical side, there were no issues as both riders were healthy and qualified for Dakar 2017."
Although performances in international rallies will build up Hero’s reputation as a cross-country rally team, the Indian manufacturer is considering taking part in domestic events from next year.
“Raid de Himalaya date is clashing with the date of Oilibya Rally in Morocco, the last and important test race before Dakar 2017,’’ when asked about Indian rallies.
“So for 2016 it does not look like [we will be able to]. For 2017, we would like to take part at rally events in India,’’ he added.
The team's next assignment before 2017 Dakar is Rally Oilibya of the Morocco between October 1-7.
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